Father Guigues will be accompanied by a priest and a deacon of the Society. With God’s help, we will send you more but I would wish first to take some time to breathe.

Letter to Bishop Bourget of Montreal, 7 June 1844, EO I n 37

How times have changed! Father Pierre Aubert was informed of his appointment to Canada on June 4 and had six days in which to prepare himself and join Father Guigues to embark for Canada.

My dear Father Aubert, I was far from thinking when I wrote you the other day that I would so soon have the occasion to write you again to confide to you a very important mission.

I have just received several letters from Canada. The horizon extends ever wider before us. To the establishments already founded in the diocese of Montreal must be added those offered to us in that of Kingston, either for the ministry to the Indigenous tribes or that of the great lumber camps. It is not possible to abandon the Townships where our Fathers are already doing much good. And now unexpectedly the Bishop of Quebec is crying aloud to us for missionaries for his immense diocese. It is all the more important for us to respond to his invitation in that we are the first he calls… As a consequence of this new state of affairs, I can no longer content myself with sending Father Guigues alone. Other Fathers must arrive at the same time as himself while waiting until I can send still more to these blessed regions which long for the Good News.

I am going to ordain Brother Garin deacon to accompany Father Guigues and yourself whom I assign to this beautiful mission. Make yourself ready to leave Wednesday so as to arrive at Lyons on Thursday morning at the address which Father Guigues will have given you. This Father will arrive at the same time as you with his other companion and you will continue your journey together towards Paris and Le Havre where you will embark.

I accompany you with my best wishes and my paternal benediction while regretting my not being able to be one of the group. Goodbye my dear son, I embrace you with all my heart.

Letter to Father Pierre Aubert, 4 June 1844, EO I n 36

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Writing to the Bishop of Montreal to inform him of the appointment of Father Guigues, Eugene refers to him as his “alter ego.”

Given this state of affairs, it will not suffice that I send more members to enable the founding of communities which are requested. I regard it as a duty to make the utmost sacrifice for the sake of suitably organizing a kind of province of our Congregation in America. I have had to choose for that a distinguished man who has proved his worth in a difficult administrative situation. He also enjoys much esteem within and without the Congregation…

It is Father Guigues to whom I entrust this mission, with the most extensive faculties. He will be a sort of alter ego who will have jurisdiction over all the members of our Institute whoever they are, and upon all the communities of the Congregation in America. It is with him that their Lordships the Bishops must deal, respecting the services they desire from the Congregation and the establishments they would wish to be founded in their dioceses, etc…

Letter to Bishop Bourget of Montreal, 7 June 1844, EO I n 37

This “alter ego” was the representative of the Superior General in all administrative matters, but he was also an Oblate who had imbibed the spirit of the charism given to Eugene and would ensure its continuation.

In a word, our Visitor Extraordinary can bring about, according to his jurisdiction in his province, all that the Superior General can bring about in the whole Congregation.

Act constituting Father Guigues as Visitor extraordinary to the Oblates in Canada, 10 June 1844, EO I n 41

… He shall have for the duration of his commission in America all those powers which I exercise in the Congregation with the exception of admission of candidates to oblation, of their expulsion from the Society and of dispensation from the vows of religion, of convoking the Chapter and other faculties not related to the special administration of the Congregation in America.

Letter to Fr Jean Baptiste Honorat, 8 June 1844, EO I n 39

For further details on Father Bruno Guigues see: https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/guigues-bishop-bruno-eugene/

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In three years the Canadian mission had grown in an amazing way as the local bishops came to appreciate the missionary potential of the Oblates. The time had come for the appointment of a capable Oblate to oversee the situation. The founder decided on Father Guigues, who was highly respected by the Bishop of Grenoble, in whose diocese he worked. Eugene wrote to that Bishop to break the news in a diplomatic way. In doing so, he gives a good overview of the missionary work of the Oblates in Canada.

You are aware of all the good effected by your dear sons, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in the vast diocese of Montreal and you have blessed the Lord for it. You will not then learn without further consolation that other regions have opened before them. The Bishop of Kingston, having witnessed the marvels that God has wrought through the ministry of these apostolic workers, has wished to call them to Bytown in his diocese, a town where Indigenous groups are close by the mission to whom he has confided to the Oblates. Also he has at the same time entrusted them with catering to the spiritual needs of what they call the lumber camps in that country. These are numerous agglomerations of three or four hundred men dispersed in the immense forests of this part of the new world. Here poor Christians spend six to eight months logging the trees without any religious resources to help preserve them from the dangers inseparable from this nomadic and dissipated life…

In this state of affairs I find myself obliged to send to the scene a capable man who has my entire confidence so that he can organize properly the services of the Congregation in the different ministries entrusted to her and in the different places where he will judge it opportune to establish her. This person cannot be other than Father Guigues. You know his skill and devotedness. I think that the paternal affection you have for the family whose interests you have always espoused will incline you to approve this choice especially as your diocese will be affected, not by a brief absence of Father Guigues, but by one of several years…

Letter to to Bishop Philibert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, 24 May 1844

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Father Casimir Aubert was one of the young Oblates who was very close to the Founder, who relied on him for many things. The Oblate presence in the British Isles had been started by Father Daly, who was young and inexperienced. Eugene thus sent the older and more qualified Father Aubert over to take charge for a while. There had been a few issues to solve and now Aubert was back in France.

God be blessed, my dear son, now that you are settled and at rest after a very long pilgrimage. The weight is likewise off my heart and so I do not regret this journey, however arduous and costly it may have been. Nothing less could suffice to ease our concern, after being disappointed for such a long time.

On his arrival at the community of Osier, they wanted him to be acting novice-master, which he did not accept – but it gave him the opportunity to be with the four novices he had sent from the British Isles.

You did well to act as you did on arriving at Osier. You could not, however much you may have been importuned, act as master of novices in a house where everyone has his proper appointment. You will nevertheless be confessor to the English novices as long as they remain with insufficient knowledge of French to profit from the direction of the master of novices.

Three days later, Eugene was still trying to finish the letter in the midst of his many responsibilities.

Mercy me! It is hopeless trying to finish a letter. I am going to seal this one so that you may not pine over having to wait too long. I embrace you with all my heart and greet your four Irishmen, recommending to them that they profit well from the remainder of the novitiate that they are going to do. Adieu.

Letter to Fr. Casimir Aubert, 21 March 1844, EO III n 6

Three of the four Irishmen became excellent Missionary Oblates, one in Ceylon, one in Canada and one in the future Anglo-Irish province. The charism given to Eugene de Mazenod was taking root and spreading.

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Father Magnan had been sent to participate in a mission and was expecting the more experienced Father Courtès to be with him. When the latter fell ill and could not come, the young Oblate panicked.

My dear Father Magnan, this faint-heartedness that has possessed all of you is truly strange; this childish fear of what people might say, this cry of distress that all of you uttered when you saw the formidable town of Brignoles which stunned you, that which demoralized you so that people could see straight through you, and all of that dismay because Father Courtès was not there. In truth, if another sentiment had not taken hold of me at that time, I would have laughed at this panic.

Eugene stresses that he is being sent as the instrument through whom the Savior will act and that Jesus has never abandoned his missionaries.

Come on! When you are sent in the name of the Lord, once and for all leave aside all these human considerations, the effect of poorly hidden pride and lack of confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ whose instruments you have however been over so many years. You deserve that this divine grace be withdrawn from your ministry, it is then that you could be fearful of people’s judgment. But as long as it is with you, you will convert them, with sermons that are simple, not affected and inspired only by the spirit of the Lord who does not work through the well-rounded phrases and the fine language of orators…

It goes without saying that Father Vincens will take over the direction of the mission. I suggest that you readopt attitudes befitting the dignity of your great ministry. You were not sent to Brignoles to court the applause either of the Pastor or the priests, or of the town’s upper class. You have been sent to convert souls by virtue of the grace of Jesus Christ which has never been lacking, unless you relied more on your own efforts than on his power…

Eugene reminds him of

the Word of God which works miracles of conversion through your ministry, despite the judgment of men.

Letter to Father Jean Magnan, 8 March 1844, EO X n 836

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Apostolic community was always a non-negotiable condition of Oblate life for Eugene. When he sent the first Missionaries to Canada it was with the intention of their living in a community from which they would do their missions. Once there, however, the Oblates became aware of the urgent need for evangelization among people who were abandoned and did not have anyone to offer them the possibility of eternal salvation. Thus began the ongoing conflict between two Oblate values: closeness to the people in meeting the most urgent needs versus the necessity for apostolic community.

I certainly have something to say about the sudden choice you have made of Bro. Loverlochère for the missions to the Indigenous Peoples. Do you not know that he needs much exercise in the practice, not only of religious, but even of the ordinary Christian virtues? It is not right to leave him on his own. And in that connection, I want to insist again that our Fathers not be sent alone into the missions.

The Jesuit Fathers have just made it a rule that even in the missions of the Maduré, the Fathers must always go in pairs. It is my formal intention that you adopt this policy. It must only be set aside by dispensation and necessity.

Letter to Father Jean Baptiste Honorat, 1 March 1844, EO I n 32

We will see that this was to be a constant preoccupation of Eugene as the foreign missions developed. It is a struggle that has still not been successfully solved today.

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The Oblates had made an impact in Eastern Canada in the three years since their arrival and multiple requests were coming for missionaries in various places. In his haste to respond to these invitations, Eugene was pressed to send new Oblates to the missions in Canada. He had made the mistake of sending a couple of scholastics, who had promised to finish their studies there but got so involved in ministry that they did not do this.

I revert to your project to have your deacons ordained for Easter. I have just talked over this matter with Father Tempier who is more informed than I about the time these brothers spent at their studies, especially as regards theology. Let us not speak of the mediocrity, I would even say the nullity, of the literary studies of Bro. Loverlochère…

It is not to be supposed that he has studied much since he has been at Longueuil. I know that you have set him to learning the language of the Indigenous people. It is to be presumed that he has applied himself to this and with detriment for his other studies. In the name of God, let us not be encumbered with mediocre types. It is useless to lull oneself into thinking that their minds can be formed later. If their studies are not finished at the appropriate time, they remain ignorant. And yet in the missions more than anywhere else, learning is necessary because of the lack of books and of the possibility to consult.

Let theology therefore be properly taught and let there be no neglect of training in literary composition for a missionary must not persuade himself he has the privilege of preaching against the dictates of good sense, without style, without method and without doctrine, etc.

Letter to Father Jean Baptiste Honorat, 1 March 1844, EO I n 32

Perhaps still a relevant reminder for our students today?

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In the preaching of parish missions, Eugene had always insisted on the paramount importance of the witness of the lifestyle of the missionaries as the primary means of conversion of the people. A program of regular prayer is the only way to achieve an integrity of life which is then reflected in words and deeds.

No matter how beautiful the words of a preacher sound, they are empty if not accompanied by intense daily prayer.

If a man who makes a daily meditation, examines closely his conscience twice and spends half an hour in mental prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each day, does not correct his failings and makes no progress towards the perfection of his state, I would believe him much to be pitied and quite close to perdition, whatever preaching he may do in order to convert others…

Letter to Father Jean Baptiste Honorat, 1 March 1844, EO I n 32

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Young Fabre, the best subject of the seminary, has been received as a novice.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 17 February 1844, EO XXI

This simple sentence in Eugene’s journal introduces us to the 20 year-old Joseph Fabre, who had been a diocesan seminarian in Marseilles for 2 years and had now begun his formation to become a Missionary Oblate. For the next 17 years he was in continuous contact with the Bishop Eugene and Father Tempier, both of whom esteemed him. Through this close contact he was able to imbibe their Oblate spirit. After the death of Eugene, it was the 37 year-old Joseph Fabre who succeeded him as Superior General.

When he was elected to be Eugene’s successor, he concluded the Chapter of 1861 by saying:

“I feel the assistance of our much loved Founder; he has not left us!

I was at his deathbed and said to him, “You will always be among us.” “Yes,” he replied, and he has kept his promise.

He remains among us through the Holy Rule which he had left us, and which is the expression of his love for God and the salvation of souls: it is the glorious testament of his enormous heart, and in observing it we will find all our strength.”

Father Fabre’s first circular letter to the Oblates as Superior General contains an invitation to all of us, members of the Family which is inspired by the spirit of Saint Eugene:

“Let us be united in spirit and in heart

and we will be strong for doing what is good;

let us be united in the memory of a Father

forever beloved”

For further details see: https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/fabre-joseph/


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